A TIME TO SOW

Dubai 2018 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Gautam Sashittal, CEO of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), on evolving continuously, enhancing customer service, and going the extra mile to support SMEs.

Gautam Sashittal
BIOGRAPHY
Gautam Sashittal is CEO at DMCC. He draws upon his expertise gained in previous roles as COO at both DMCC and the DGCX, the Middle East’s first derivatives exchange, as well as his experience in the oil and gas industry with Royal Dutch Shell. With over 25 years of commodities and industry experience, he has a deep understanding of how supply is moving around the world to meet demand. He is also a member of the board of directors of The Dubai Gold and Commodities Exchange (DGCX), the Dubai Diamond Commodities Clearing Corporation, the Dubai Diamond Exchange (DDE), Concordia Facilities Management, and an International Advisor to the Shanghai Gold Exchange.

What have been DMCC's biggest accomplishments over the past year?

DMCC was awarded the number-one free zone in the world for the third year running by fDi Magazine, which illustrates how we are viewed both locally and internationally. This accomplishment stems from our DNA of continuously evolving and creating more value for our member companies over and above registration, licensing, and regulation. DMCC is constantly enhancing customer service levels, creating new products, services, and clusters of excellence for the industries that are part of our free zone. In 2017, we focused on four key markets: India, China, the UK, and Germany.

What features make DMCC Free Zone a strong ecosystem for international companies that want to grow their business in this region?

It is important not to stop at providing licensing and regulation, but to go the extra mile with end-to-end solutions, accessibility, and the right customer experience. We are a vibrant SME hub, supporting SMEs wherever they need help, most commonly with business applications, insurance products, and residence visas for dependents. Within our free zone, there are hubs around certain themes, such as an ecosystem for tech start-ups called AstroLabs, which has over 120 companies and is the region's premier co-working space and learning academy for digital technology companies. Another such start-up hub, concentrated around health, wellness, and wellbeing, is due to open soon as well. Large corporations that come here also benefit from operating in an existing ecosystem. Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) consists of a community of 68 high-rise residential and commercial towers. This infrastructure enables people to both set up their business and live here. Many free zones are rather industrial in nature, whereas with DMCC's JLT, everything is at your doorstep.

In which commodities can DMCC add value?

We look at any commodity in which Dubai can add value, either because of our proximity to growth markets for these commodities or because we can provide the infrastructure to draw more trade in a structured fashion. When we were set up in 2002, Dubai's diamond trade was roughly a USD3 billion industry and largely unstructured. In response, we launched the Dubai Diamond Exchange (DDE), and today that trade has risen to about USD27 billion, putting Dubai in the world's top-three diamond trading centers. Dubai has long been recognized as a city of gold and in 2002, gold trade was worth about USD6 billion. Today, gold trade with Dubai stands at almost USD60 billion. The Emirate is a world-leading bullion center and is no longer purely focused on jewellery as it was in the past. We have achieved this feat through creating infrastructure and standards that have actually raised the quality of trade. The Almas Vault, located underneath the Almas Tower in JLT, is the largest non-sovereign vault in the Middle East and is used by refineries and banks. Dubai has the second largest refinery grid outside Switzerland, and most of it is centred around this free zone. DMCC has worked with the OECD for the last seven years to create a standard called the Dubai Good Delivery (DGD) standard, which certifies quality but also assures responsible sourcing of gold to prevent conflict gold entering the supply chain. We have done the same with the tea industry: last year we handled 53 million kilos of tea, up from 42 million the year before. The DMCC Tea Centre is a tea marketplace where planters bring in their tea in bulk for processing. We also provide all of the required infrastructure and services, including warehousing, tea bag production, and specialty blending. We are also developing the DMCC Coffee Centre. Coffee consumption in the region is growing by about 7-8% annually, whereas globally growth is 2-3%. It will likely handle 20 million kilos of coffee each year and has already signed agreements with representatives of the Yunnan Province in China to bring high-quality Arabica coffee into the facility.